Good parenting reduces anti-social behaviour, new study suggests

3rd Oct 2019 - Jonathan Williams

New research from Kings College London has indicated that children with antisocial behaviour who don’t feel close to their parents cost significantly more to the public purse than those who feel supported by and close to their parents.

It is well established that ‘youth antisocial behaviour is a strong indicator of risk of poor outcomes and high cost’ and this research aimed to look at the underlying causes particularly focusing on ‘attachment security’, namely how much a child feels loved and secure being able to rely on their parents.

Looking at a group of young people with moderate to high levels of antisocial behaviour, the research explored how they felt about their parental relationships. The results revealed that young people ‘securely attached’ to their mother cost £6,743 whereas those ‘insecurely attached’ cost £10,119.

The disparity was even more striking in young people’s attachment to their fathers. Those ‘securely attached’ to their fathers cost £1,353 whereas those ‘insecurely attached’ costs £13,978.

The researchers of the study concluded that there is therefore a strong case for investment into good-quality parenting programmes that address attachment and involve fathers.

Support for families and marriage

This research backs up CARE’s continued calls that the Government supports families and supports marriage. The stark difference in the cost to the state of children who do not experience secure fatherly love versus those that do should challenge any oft repeated notions that family formation is not an important consideration.

It also reinforces research undertaken by the Marriage Foundation which showed that mental health problems are especially prevalent among children whose parents split up. Family formation matters as it is often an expression of parents involvement in children’s lives. The Marriage Foundation researched confirmed that the result of family breakdown is that teenage girls exhibit emotional problems whereas teenage boys are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems.

A child’s relationship with both their mother and father are vital to their development and prospects in life, as both these studies outline. The Government must recognise the importance of parental relationships and recommit to supporting families and marriages in the UK.

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